Having been on the marriage road for almost 20 years (where has the time gone?), it’s no surprise that my wife and I have had times of struggles and trials. Some of those times have felt impossible to recover from.
Yet here we are approaching 20 years and more in love today and stronger than we have ever been. How does that happen?
An uncompromising commitment
The first thing I will say is that during those struggles we never seriously considered ending it all. While we may have wanted to out of frustration or despair we never allowed those emotions to become a real option. We knew we were in this for the long haul no matter the cost and no matter how bad it got.
I believe this is the foundation. When life gets so bad that it feels like we are being buried alive we look for ways to “get out” of the situation. But the Lord makes it clear that it’s through the tough times that he builds his character in us (James 1:2-4).
An important caveat
It’s important to understand there there are some situations that require separation. A person’s physical, emotional and spiritual health should not be jeopardized by staying in a toxic and dangerous environment. This is especially true if children are suffering as well.
“I don’t get what I deserve!”
I have heard these words a number of times in relation to a person’s spouse. The list is usually full of grievances and unmet expectations. I easily fell into this trap when Beth and I were first married. Trust me, her list was just as long as mine.
It wasn’t until we realized that marriage has nothing to do with getting my way or having all my needs fulfilled. Only the Lord can fully meet our needs. Marriage is about sacrifice, submission, humility and lots of really hard work.
My spouse first
So often we apply verses like Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” to others and fail to apply them to our spouses.
My wife, of all people should receive the benefit from my obedience to these verses. I can come up with all kinds of excuses why I don’t think they should apply to my marriage but none of them are valid. The Lord calls me to obedience not to happiness.
Joy in submission
Speaking of happiness, I have found, the hard way, that I am most fulfilled in my marriage when I am serving my wife. When she is the focus of my attention and service my marriage grows and flourishes. It has very little to do with how she is treating me.
Serving my wife has become much easier as my attitude has changed. As I have surrendered my life to the Lord he has given me a greater desire to make sure my wife is loved in emotional and practical ways.
“I don’t want to Lord!”
A number of months ago I came home from work and I was exhausted. I had just sat down to take a break when the Lord spoke to me and told me I should clean up the house, put the dishes away and start some laundry before Beth got home. “Really Lord?”
I remember being annoyed and to be honest I tried to push it to the back of my mind. It was only a minute before I knew I would be sinning if I didn’t do what the Lord wanted.
45 minutes or so later I finally sat down again. Phew, I can get a little break. Just then Beth walked in the door. I could tell right away something was wrong. I asked her how she was doing and she informed me she had a splitting headache and she asked me if I would mind making supper. Having had this conversation with the Lord just an hour before I knew what my answer should be.
On the inside I said, “Grrrrrr, I just want to relax!” but instead I told her, “Sure, no problem.” I made supper. We ate and chatted about the day and then Beth crashed on the couch. Later on when she was feeling better, she came up to me, gave me a hug and tanked me for taking care of her. I never felt more energized all day. 🙂
“I didn’t sign up for this!”
It’s easy to put ourselves first but my challenge to you, as I challenge myself every day, is to put your spouse first. It’s amazing what the Lord will do in a marriage when even 1 person lets go of selfish ambition and focuses on loving and serving their spouse.
There are lots of other things that make a marriage healthy but this one is top on my list.